Ottawa Welcomes Leonard Nimoy

Ottawa Welcomes Leonard Nimoy

May 13, 2014 2 By Steph Mernagh

A once in a lifetime event for many, I counted myself among the very lucky that were at Ottawa Comic Con to attend Leonard Nimoy’s Skype session late Saturday afternoon on May 10th. A relatively new idea to conventions but a great one nonetheless, attendees had the chance to Skype with the incredible Leonard Nimoy, whom everyone knows as Spock in Star Trek (The Original Series).

After a few technical difficulties with dropped connections and Nimoy having a tough time hearing the massive crowd that cheered for him, the interview was underway. For a room filled with thousands of adoring fans, it seemed everyone wouldn’t dare say a word, absorbing everything that Nimoy had to say about everything from his time on Star Trek to acting and beyond.

After a fan question prompted his praises of Zachary Quinto, the actor who took up the helm as Spock in J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek, a surprise guest took the stage; Karl Urban, who plays Doctor “Bones” McCoy in the reboot, crashed the Skype panel in order to ask Nimoy who his favorite actor to work with on the new series was, and stated that he wouldn’t be surprised if he chose Quinto. Nimoy, after a fit of laughter, finally replied, “Well, it’s you, Karl.”


Nimoy described himself now as “majoring in family and minoring in career”, with the majority of his time being spent with his family whom he described as all tight-knit, supportive, and he talked fondly of his children and grandchildren.

As expected, there were many questions for him about Spock and how he began his journey into acting. He reminisced about one of his first films, Zombies of the Stratosphere, and what it was like to maintain odd jobs to support his young family while following his dreams. It wasn’t until he had a guest role on the show, The Lieutenant that was produced by Gene Roddenberry, that the stars began to align.

[blockquote]“I think that’s my legacy; I’m going to be known as Spock.”[/blockquote]

Nimoy opened up to the crowd, passionately describing Spock and how he began to really adore the character he portrayed as he evolved. He was interested that Roddenberry wanted to “portray an alien race that could get along with humans”, and how important that role seemed to be in the show, using the alien factor sometimes to raise equality issues (seen in such episodes as “Balance of Terror”).

What Nimoy didn’t know back in the 1960s was that Star Trek would not only become a cultural icon, but a fan phenomena known around the world that would influence advances in technology and more. He became incredibly popular for being Spock and spoke about the release of his first autobiography, “I Am Not Spock”, which was widely misconceived.

“I’m not Spock,” Nimoy told the crowd with a gentle smile, “But if you still think I’m Spock, that’s okay, too. I think that’s my legacy, I’m going to be known as Spock.”

OTTCC-49Nimoy also discussed some of his favorite episodes of Star Trek, including City on the Edge of Forever, Shore Leave, Trouble with Tribbles, and of course, Amok Time. He stated that he felt Amok Time was the most important episode to his character and even explained to a young boy who asked about the Vulcan Salute that it was in fact Nimoy himself who came up with the hand gesture as a way that Vulcan’s greeted one another.

Another question brought up how Nimoy felt when the studio announced Star Trek: The Next Generation. “To be fair, I was skeptical.” He told the crowd, “But soon after it aired I was surprised and pleased.” From there, it was Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew that carried on the Star Trek name beginning in 1987.

But not all the questions were about Star Trek and another young fan, dressed as Marty McFly, broke away from the steady stream of questions about the show. He asked, “If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?”

Nimoy, charmed by the young boys enthusiastic question, gave a reality-shaking answer;

[blockquote]“I would head fifty years into the future. I’m concerned about what will happen to this planet if we don’t treat it better.”[/blockquote]

The simple and honest reply earned an uproar of cheers from the crowd in their agreement. But, this wasn’t the only moving statement that Nimoy had for the hundreds of people who came out to see him; near the end of the Skype session, Nimoy confessed that he had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

This information broke earlier this year when the star was seen in a wheelchair in an airport, wearing an oxygen mask. He explained that while he stopped smoking over forty years ago, that was still too late to save him from the disease that causes him to get very easily out of breath, avoid strenuous activities and can make breathing difficult. He recently started a campaign to make people more aware of the dangers of smoking, taking to his Twitter account (@TheRealNimoy) to talk about his struggles.

[blockquote]“If you don’t smoke, never start. If you do smoke, QUIT.”[/blockquote]

After being thanked by the panel moderator, Nimoy was all smiles again as he looked through his computer screen to see people cheering for him on the other end and in true form, gave the Vulcan Salute and waved goodbye. It was an experience no fan will soon forget, and more conventions should be open to the idea of having a Skype video session with actors who are unable to attend but have a couple minutes to spare answering questions from fans in front of their computer monitors. It’s a great experience for everyone involved, even past the technical difficulties.

Live Long and Prosper.